GDC Keynote: Sony Launches Third Life - UPDATE: video footage

First PlayStation "Home" Screens and Video here - NOW!

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Second Life: fucked!?
Second Life: fucked!?
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UPDATE: "Home" video now available, see below
Sony head of worldwide studios Phil Harrison used his Game Developers Conference keynote to unveil an initiative he calls Game 3.0 – which essentially takes inspiration from aspects of Web 2.0 such as social networking and user-generated content and adds them to the PlayStation 3. The key ways, at least initially, in which Game 3.0 will manifest itself are a new service accessible from the PS3’s Cross-Media Bar called Home – a 3D avatar- based space not dissimilar to Second Life, in which PlayStation Network users can meet, socialise, play mini-games and set up online games, and an innovative game from the (previously indie) makers of Rag Doll Kung Fu entitled Little Big Planet, in which users will be encouraged to generate their own levels.

Home is clearly an attempt to endow the PlayStation Network with qualities relevant to frequenters of MySpace, YouTube and Second Life not possessed by Xbox Live, and it looks pretty impressive, although it does raise a few questions. Harrison put it into context by showing a slide filled with “Expressions synonymous with Game 3.0,” such as “social, content creation, communication, creativity and emergent behaviour,” adding: “It ends up as emergent entertainment, where we don’t define the rules as game creators; we’re actually putting the power back in the hands of content users rather than creators.”

He then launched into a demo of Home: “Home is a 3D avatar-based community for the PS3 accessible from a new icon on the Cross-Media Bar. It’s a free download that gives access to a vast community of connected users. The first place you land when you come into Home is what we call the central lobby or the central lounge. Here, you can see that you have an avatar and that you get a Virtual PSP – this is where you get shortcuts that allow you very quickly to access some of the features of home. We can dive in and instantly start changing and customising our characters. There will be a standard set of clothing which is available at the beginning; you’ll also be able to buy additional clothing, and to get clothing unlocked for you when you buy PlayStation 3 games.”

Harrison then showed a powerful-looking face customisation program and took his character for a walk around the central lobby. While, architecturally, it looked impressive, he pointed out a few aspects that could prove contentious: “You’ll notice that there are embedded ads, such as posters for forthcoming games and HD-quality video.” Other avatars were present – “Everyone else in the space is a PS3 user. You can launch animations, text- chat, voice-chat and video-chat.” He said that Sony has developed a system called Quickwrite, which: “Gives the ability to string together very quick sentences.” Some lag was apparent in the voice-chat.

Next stop was the Games Lounge: “It is designed to allow social interaction with other users, by allowing you to play low-intensity games,” such as pool, bowling and virtual arcade machines, all accessible simply by walking up to them. Next, he introduced the concept of private spaces in Home: “Everyone in Home will be given an apartment, so you can invite your buddy list back to your place.” Private spaces looked agreeably customisable: “You can download more furniture and it’s physics-based, so you can make a pile of sofas if you want. It’s your place, so it’s your rules. You can launch multiplayer games from here, so it’s a very quick way of creating communities for games, and you can customise it with media from your PS3’s hard disk.”

Harrison then moved back to the public spaces, showing a virtual cinema and adding: “The home network is evolving – it’s not just about Sony content and game content –we expect to extend to non-game brands.” He showed a mock-up of an area, which would be run by a brand, in which you could play a football penalty shoot-out contest, basketball and golf (clearly a space with EA in mind). “And this is the last part: the Hall of Fame. This is a new feature for the PlayStation Network – users get real 3D trophies commemorating milestones in PS3 games – it will be your personal trophy room.” And there will also be an enormous room in which you can browse all trophies, including ones from games not yet released.

Harrison said that Home is currently in closed beta-testing, and a more publicly accessible beta trial will open in April; the service will launch in “Fall 2007”. In general, Home looked very impressive, and it will certainly steal a march on Xbox Live – it will be interesting to see how Microsoft responds. The prospect, though, that some content will be paid for and that public spaces could be studded with advertising may not endear it to some, though.

Next, Harrison briefly demoed Singstar: “Which embodies some of the cool user- created functionality of the PlayStation 3 and the Game 3.0 concept.” As in previous demos, he showed how to preview and buy songs from the PlayStation Store, but he also revealed that: “You will be able to upload, to the Media Gallery, playbacks recorded using Eye Toy and other means, share them with other users on My Singstar, and other users can rate them.” Singstar, he said, will launch in Europe in early June and in the US later in the autumn.

Harrison’s next demo was the most impressive: a previously unseen game called Little Big Planet. Created by the indie team behind Rag Doll Kung Fu – Harrison said: “We loved this game, and we thought it was an embodiment of the independent community building really great games with their own inspiration, their own money and sharing it freely over the network.” The team has since set up as a developer called Media Molecule.

Here, Harrison enlisted the help of Media Molecule founders Mark Keeley and Alex Evans, who set about using the in-game tools to create a level. Evans said: “This isn’t about a separate editor and separate games – it’s about creativity on the PlayStation 3.” Evans and Keeley started off with a soft-toy- style character, apparently made from hessian, showing first how it could be made to move using the six-axis controller, then populating the space they were in with objects. Evans said: “Everything in this game is made from real materials – for example, if you take this block of wood and put this cog on it, it moves as you expect.” Evans and Keeley introduced objects such as an orange, a giant football (everything could be quickly resized to taste) and a tree apparently made from felt, and quickly constructed a platform-style level. Another key concept in the game was the ability to slap stickers onto any surface, bringing about a sumptuous visual appearance. They were also able to mess around – Keeley’s character, for example, sticking flowers onto a cog as it spun round. Evans said: “They are very tactile environments – you can spend as long as you like with your friends and make entire games.”

Harrison and his Media Molecule chums then demoed a four-player co-op, yet competitive romp through a more sophisticated level, in which the players competed to collect sponges – at one point, a player had to hold down a lever allowing the others to progress, and at other points, they had to combine their strength to move large objects. Evans added: “Another key game mechanic is grabbing – you can grab each other or objects,” and he showed that you can grab moving objects and use their momentum to launch yourself to out-of-the- way places. You could also take Polaroid-style snapshots of memorable in-game moments.

Neither Harrison nor Media Molecule would be drawn on how much pre-generated content the game would ship with, but it looked amazing, and agreeably tactile – Media Molecule did admit that they had “Been playing a lot of Loco Roco when we came up with the idea.” Harrison said Little Big Planet: “Will be out later this year on the network and early next year on Blu-ray disk.”

Next up was a short demo of WarHawk. Harrison revealed that: “There has been a strategic change for the game – it will be exclusively online, with a multiplayer focus. At the preview event the night before Harrison’s keynote, attendees were able to get hands-on experience of the game, which is playable by up to 30 people simultaneously. The tank-driving and foot-based FPS aspects of the game seemed rather divorced from the aerial dogfighting, despite the presence of ant-aircraft guns which foot soldiers could man. And putting out WarHawk as an online-only effort is hardly a vote of confidence in its merits. Attendees of the preview event also got a tiny glimpse of a video of Killzone, from which it was all but impossible to formulate any informed opinions.

Finally, Harrison talked a bit of tech, unveiling an initiative called PlayStation Edge: “This is something that is very relevant to the game developer audience, but I think it’s also very relevant to consumers. What PlayStation Edge is all about is taking some of the advanced technology that we have invented within Worldwide Studios and deliver it free of charge to PlayStation 3 developers. There are two specific areas we are covering at the beginning of PlayStation Edge. The first is called GCM Replay. This is an incredibly powerful RSX profiling tool. It allows developers to eke out the highest possible performance from the graphics chip inside the PlayStation 3 and to give incredible feedback to game designers and developers as to how they are constructing their visual scenes.”

“The second area is in some highly optimised libraries for PlayStation 3 in the areas of geometry processing, animation and compression. All optimised specifically to take advantage of the SPUs. These are tremendous technical and creative advantages that PlayStation 3 has, and we want to give all developers access to the absolute pinnacle technology.”


Showing the 20 most recent comments. Read all 22.
sneakyduck 8 Mar 2007 09:16
mmm... microtransactions...

BULLshit FILTER ENGAGE: Unless you want your Mii - sorry avatar - to walk around naked and looking like everybody else, you better be prepared to cough up.

As a strict pro-nintendo person I want to find this insulting for obvious reasons. Truth is, aside from the microtransactions s**te it looks as though it could have a lot of potential. I love the idea of actually being able to use your avatar in matchmaking rather than the whole "must protect the children" approach that's been adopted on the Wii.

Wouldn't it have been nice if this had been a pack in rather than a response to what the competitors are doing though? Sorry PS fans, I couldn't resist adding some fuel to the fire.
hollywooda 8 Mar 2007 09:59
Surprise, Surprise, Sony have ripped off someone else... Second life, Sony saw how much money SL is generating & now want to steal a slice of that pie, how long before your being charged for your "virtual space" & "clothing & flower pattern curtains", i went on to second life once walked about got bored, abused a load of people & f**ked off, i can see this appealing to some people & it'll have a novelty factor for awhile but most people just wanna play games..... come on Sony, start listening!!, PEOPLE WANT TO PLAY GAMES ON YOUR PLAYSTATION!!!.... If Sony had concentrated more on making good games for the PSP (which i happened to think is an awesome console) instead of trying to make it a f**king Swiss army knife!, then maybe it wouldn't be sinking as much as it is.
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billson 8 Mar 2007 15:23
i can see the headlines now "my son was abducted after meeting someone on his playstation" peados will be rejoicing.
OptimusP 8 Mar 2007 16:18
The potential is huge though, an complete interactive way to share what you have on your PS3 with others. Like music as shown in the video, or pictures you can put up as posters in you house. Now it all needs is a link with the internet and you can watch youtube on your telly in your virtual house on your telly in your real house (or is it?).

Just think off all the useless community stuff you can cramp on this thing! Tehn think how much they can charge people for all the little stuff. The video itself talked about "downloading new stuff to get the exclusive look" hello micropayments!

Also...nobody will be able to create a avatar that looks like him/her because of the realistic style of it all. Mii's does that a lot better in a lot smarter way, again, smart art direction overtakes superior technology.
Rod Todd 9 Mar 2007 07:13
hollywooda wrote:
Sony saw how much money SL is generating & now want to steal a slice of that pie

Second life is not makling money,. Just claiming to do so through it's tame media outlet, Reuters, in the hope that if you say it enough, people will believe it and it will become true.

Reuters shamelss pimping of Second Life is one of the most distasteful examples of how modern media is prepared to prostitute itself. Since the Times Newspaper of August 24th 1995, when they ran an entire issue of Windows 95 puff pieces, it has been acceptable for once great organs to suck corporate cock - because those same once great organs are now shareholder owned commercial entities and the corporations whose cocks they suck are advertisers.

Second Life blows. No one uses it, except the scared clueless companies who have been tempted into it by Reuters tales of its boundless success.

Home looks fun, usable and engaging. Second Life is IRC with avatars - ones that look like they were created in 1994.

hollywooda 9 Mar 2007 09:58
i just dont get all this virtual meeting people & buying things that u dont own or cant use?, the reason i like online gaming is becuase its an experience i cant emulate anywhere else, i cant play battlefield in the real world flying helicopters & shooting tanks or racing in Super cars around london, but second life & this new Home thing, i can go & chat with my mates & go to the cinema with them i can play bowling in real life, & i'd much rather do that, these things reek of geek.
vault 13 11 Mar 2007 04:28
hollywooda wrote:
i just dont get all this virtual meeting people & buying things that u dont own or cant use?, the reason i like online gaming is becuase its an experience i cant emulate anywhere else, i cant play battlefield in the real world flying helicopters & shooting tanks or racing in Super cars around london, but second life & this new Home thing, i can go & chat with my mates & go to the cinema with them i can play bowling in real life, & i'd much rather do that, these things reek of geek.

Would you rather navigate through a bland text based menu screen to make all your choices? Would you not like to have gorgeous graphics on your way to play your game?

The thing Sony is trying to do here is what companies have been trying to successfully design for the past decade or so, Chat 2.0. No more text based chat rooms. I mean it's part of the reason why people shell out millions on MMORPGs! The social component Sony is now offering free, awesome. I love the idea of large virtual worlds. If you think it's arse, then your not a gamer. Or worse your contradicting yourself. Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't we all drop our jaws when we load up a new game and marvel at the vast open landscape (GTA, Elder Scrolls, Final Fantasy et al). Why should we crap on a FREE vast open community. If you use s**t like MySpace, blog software, and the like don't point fingers at Sony. Everyone is copying everyone else's ideas. It's what fueling better games, consoles, and social networking applications. Remember MySpace is just a fascimilie of Friendster and no one is point fingers at Tom! Stop the incessant Sony bashing. Because the only thing that reeks here is the detractors. This is definitely the future of online interactivity.

This is just one man's opinion though...
Ditto 11 Mar 2007 12:41
This sounds really interesting. Maybe each component isn't very innovative, but as a whole it could be quite unique.

Remember Nintendo doesn't even have an online service yet, and it sounds like this was in the works long before the Wii.

However I'm not sure how many people this is going to attract to buying to console, it ranks as a "that's interesting" rather than "that's so cool and innovative I'll spend £450".

I'm also not sure about the appeal of MMORPGs beyond a certain group of people - I personally would never play one.
hollywooda 11 Mar 2007 19:24
This for me has absolutly nothing to do with gaming, its a blown up chatroom & if your into that sort of thing fine, but i just wanna play games xbox live dashboard might not be amazing sexy but it works, thats just my opinon.
vault 13 12 Mar 2007 02:38
hollywooda wrote:
This for me has absolutly nothing to do with gaming, its a blown up chatroom & if your into that sort of thing fine, but i just wanna play games xbox live dashboard might not be amazing sexy but it works, thats just my opinon.

Would you ever or do you play MMORPGs? There's a large social component you can't deny. It's what makes them unique. Or maybe a better question to ask is would you play a persistent online game? One that as you play you contribute to the shaping of the game world in some way. The persistence and grandoiseness of it all is what gets me all hot and bothered. Don't care so much to dress my avatar in the latest buyable content or blast my personal music collection from my own space, but the network here as a whole is really exciting. I like connectivity...
DoctorDee 12 Mar 2007 07:37
hollywooda wrote:
its a blown up chatroom

I agree. But Second life and all the other Metaverses would have you believe it's the hottest thing right now. And compared to Second Life, Home looks superb. So rather than pay to play in a crude slow Metaverselike Second Life, it's nice to be given a far superior one for free.

And yes, with micropayments, lots of it won't be free... But as long as Sony keep the basic aspects of it free, they'll hook a large number of people (possibly me included) into stumping up for nice stuff for my Home.

hollywooda 12 Mar 2007 09:59
"Would you ever or do you play MMORPGs? There's a large social component you can't deny."

I dont play MMORPGs, i dont have anything against them but i really dont have the time to make them worth while, plus i like to play varied types of games, in one night on live i might have a few races on PGR then i'll have a shoot out on Rainbow6 then i might catch up with sum mates on CO-OP GRAW i cant imagine playing the same game every night for months on end. Even Gears which is possible the best game i've playd once i'd done the solo game on Hard & Insane then Co-op & a zillion 4x4 online battles i've had to put it 2 rest.....if that was a constant online game, i dont think i could be assed to keep it up.
config 12 Mar 2007 14:54
hollywooda wrote:
Surprise, Surprise, Sony have ripped off someone else... Second life

Oh come off it. If Sony is ripping anyone off, it's the 3D chatrooms - such as Blacksun's Cybergate - that were created over 10 years ago using VRML.
config 12 Mar 2007 17:16
Replying to one's own comment, bad, bad - yes I know.

However, I found a piccy of what Sony is ripping off, Black Sun's Passport, circa 1997.

This is scurrilous! Damn Sony, those thieving, uncreative bastards. Ripping off 10 year old technology!

/me thinks, seeing Black Sun 10 years on, maketh Second Life look all the more pathetic
vault 13 13 Mar 2007 05:27
I have no problem with Sony stealing ideas. Honestly Sony is no different than ANY OTHER COMPANY out there. Everyone is taking previously formed ideas and building upon them. That's what's great about this world. Is not Galactic Civilizations II just a better version of MOO II? Is not Starcraft just a better version of Command and Conquer? Is not Halo just a better version of Goldeneye? But Vault, you may say, don't those games add much to the core idea and fine turning other aspects thus making it at least a better version? And I ask again, what is so wrong with Sony trying to build, successfully I might add, upon the $49.99 a year, assorted colors lego blocks bucket that Microsoft so painstakingly crafted. This is so much better than what Live is or will ever will be for a while it seems AND it's free! And here you guys are s**tting on, at least and at best (for some people unwilling to participate in the money exchange) a living game lobby. What's so wrong with trying to move past static of barely moving/changing text?

Plus I think the combination of the eye bleedingly bad polygons and the throwback Netscape 3.0 browser I think would send any current PC into permanent BSOD mode, make the keyboard lose all functionality, the LCD screen would suffer from the worst stuck pixels in the world, and the hard drive platters would spin so fast trying to change the graphics on the screen they'd unhinge, fly out of the case and head toward your juggular just for attempting to view such crap.
config 13 Mar 2007 09:10
Vault - there was more than a little irony smeared on my posting.
DoctorDee 13 Mar 2007 14:01
config wrote:
/me thinks, seeing Black Sun 10 years on, maketh Second Life look all the more pathetic

Amen to that. Cybergate/Passport were incredible for their time - but even then, they were not compelling... We played heavily in them for about 3/4 weeks and them dropped them in favour of what? IRC!

But for Second Life to be pimping something that is so obviously just a Black Sun rip off as the latest and greatest thing, and their lap dog, Reuters, reporting on it as if it's the second coming of Jim Morrison is just pathetic.

jay polo 18 Apr 2007 14:22
well i play secondlife for 1 reason to make everyone else there miserable!!!!!
config 18 Apr 2007 15:42
While this thread has been resurrected, I though it opportune to point out that development of Home actually began three years ago.

In this month's Develop mag there's a column by Sony's Jonathan Venables where he writes about his experiences in prototyping an social lobby and gathering place for the PS2 network - back then is was called "Hub"

daman 4 Jan 2008 21:41
when does the lbp demo released, its not coming fall 07 so when plz answer
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